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July 16, 2015

5 reasons why Chef Vikas Khanna loves Thimphu

Text by Vikas Khanna. Illustration by Hemant Sapre

What makes Thimphu one of the most-loved destinations? Vikas Khanna gives us the complete lowdown…

Most people would say that the destinations they love for their style would be cities like London or Paris, but for me it’s definitely Thimphu in Bhutan. It has a different kind of charm. I love Bhutan — it is one country I can keep going back to. And Paro and Thimphu are great cities — I love that they are both very close to nature. There are some good books about life in the South-Asian country, and I have written a lot about the Bhutanese food and culture as well. It’s really fascinating for me that the people there know how to use what has been given by nature — all the produce they use is completely natural.

1. VISUAL APPEAL
I love the experience of trekking in Thimphu. It’s great to stay in the mountains, as the air is so pure and fresh. An hour away from the city is the Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. That’s a perfectly serene location and is one place that is truly gorgeous. Although Thimphu is a city, everywhere you go there is a natural landmark — the people, the greenery, the mountains, the trees, and the purity are all wonderful.

2. SHOPPING CART
From the city bazaars, you can get very local, traditional stuff. You get handmade baskets — woven cane ones — I have almost 300 of them!  The shops are good for brass figurines and artistic items for the house too.

3. FOODIE’S PARADISE
I love how the Bhutanese food has evolved. Because the city is at a very high altitude, they use a lot of cheese. And I find it quite interesting that they use chillies as a vegetable, and not as a condiment. One thing that I love is that every Saturday, there is a vegetable and farmer’s market in Thimphu, which is a sight to behold. There’s still the barter system there — exchanging without money – that has been continuing from the old, pre-currency days. That is something I have really fallen in love with. Ema Dashi, their national dish made from chilli and cheese, is a must have. The flavours blend together deliciously. Their street food is also quite scrumptious. I was never a fan of butter tea. But in Bhutan, people drink it all the time. I was totally fascinated by the fact that when you dine with someone, they serve it to you, and every time you take a sip, they pour some more. So your glass is literally always full!

4. WELCOME HOME
All the homes there are like artworks themselves — they are made in similar traditional designs and still, each one is unique. Traditionally, the Bhutanese are a very welcoming people. You can actually go to people’s houses and they cook for you, serve you and you dine with them.

5. ITS UNIQUE FACTOR
The culture there is old and traditional, and for me, that’s something special. I’d say, if you really want to understand happiness and the feeling of being Zen, Bhutan is the one place you must visit. There is a reason why they are the happiest people on earth — your values of happiness will increase in any city there.

Award-winning chef, Vikas Khanna is the owner of New York’s Michelin star restaurant, Junoon. When he’s not cooking, he can be seen on TV judging people’s culinary skills on MasterChef India.

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